(a historical document commonly attributed to Don Antonio Valeriano, and written around 1556; a translation by Father Real Bourque)
Here is the account, in its proper order, of how quite recently, miraculously, there appeared the Perfect Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Queen, at the Tepeyac Hill, known as Guadalupe.
First, she allowed herself to be seen by a little Macehual (Indian) by the name of Juan Diego; then her precious image appeared before the recently elected Bishop Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga.
Ten years after the conquest of the city of Mexico, when all arrows and shields had been laid aside, when there was peace everywhere among the peoples, faith began to sprout and put forth green shoots, opening up its corolla to the knowledge of Him through Whom one lives: the true God.
In that year, 1531, within a few days of the month of December, a little Macehual (little Indian), a poor man of the people named Juan Diego lived, it is said, in Cuautitlán, although in all things related to God (his religion), he belonged to Tlatelolco (the parish of Mexico).
It was Saturday, very early, at dawn, and he was going in search of God and His commandments. As he approached the small hill called Tepeyac, as the day was already breaking, he heard singing from the small hill, like the song of many fine birds; when their voices ceased it was as if the hill answered with songs even more gentle, more joyful than those of the coyoltototl, the tzinitzcan, and of other delicate song birds.
Juan stopped to look around. He said to himself: “Am I worthy of what I hear? Perhaps I am only dreaming it? Perhaps I am only seeing it as in dream? Where am I? Where do I find myself? Could this be the place that the old ones, our ancestors, spoke about: the land of flowers, the land of corn, of our meat and our sustenance? Could this be the heavenly land?”
He stood looking up towards the top of the hill, from the side where the sun rises, from where the beautiful celestial song came. When the song suddenly ceased, when it could no longer be heard, then he began to hear someone calling him from the top of the little hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito!”
Then he dared to go where he was being called. Nothing troubled his heart: he was not anxious about anything. Rather, he felt extremely joyous and happy; he made his way up to the small hill to see where he was being called.
When he came to the summit of the little hill, a Maiden was standing there. When she saw him, she told him to come closer. When he arrived in front of her, he greatly admired in what manner, above all comprehension, her perfect beauty was expressed.
Her dress shone like the sun, as if it were gleaming, and the stone, the rock on which she was standing, seemed to be sending forth beams of light; her splendor looked like that of precious stones, as “ajorca” (though even more beautiful); the ground sparkled as the rays of a rainbow in the mist. The mesquite bushes, the cactus, and other scrubby plants that grew there looked like emeralds. Their foliage was like turquoise, and their stems, thorns, and leaves shone like gold.
He prostrated himself in her presence, listening to her voice and to her words, which were full of praise, very affable, as those of someone who wished to attract him and esteemed him highly.
She said: “Listen, my son, little one, Juanito, where are you going?”
And he answered: “My Lady, Queen, my Little Child, I am going to your little house of Mexico, Tlatelolco, to follow the things of God which are given and taught to us by those who are the images of our Lord: our priests.”
Then she spoke to him and made known her precious will. She told him: “Know for certain, my son, the smallest one, that I am the perfect and ever virgin holy Mary, mother of the true God, through Whom one lives, the Creator of mankind, the One Who owns what is near and beyond, the Owner of heaven and earth. I ardently desire that here they build me my sacred little house, where I will show Him, I will exalt Him and make Him manifest. Where I will offer Him to all the people with all my love, my compassionate gaze and my help, my salvation, because I am truly your merciful mother, yours and mother of all who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who search for me, of those who have confidence in me. There I will listen to their cry, to their sadness, so as to curb all their different pains, their miseries and sorrow, to remedy and alleviate their sufferings.
“So to realize what my compassionate, merciful gaze intends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico and tell him that I sent you to make known to him what I deeply desire, that he provide me with a house, that he build my temple in the plain. You will tell him everything you have seen, admired, and heard. Be assured that I shall be very grateful and will reward you; I will enrich you and glorify you, and you will greatly merit that I repay your weariness, your service with which you will request this matter to which I send you. Now, my son, my smallest one, you have heard my voice; go and do everything the best you can.”
Immediately in her presence, Juan bowed very low and said: “My Lady, my Little Daughter, I am going to fulfill your venerable desire, your venerable word, for now I depart from you, I your poor little Indian.” He then took leave of her, and descending the rocky slope of Tepeyac, set off in rapt wonder towards Mexico City.
Upon reaching the center of the city, he went directly to the palace of the Bishop, who had arrived only very recently, as Governing Priest. His name was Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga, a priest of St. Francis. As soon as Juan arrived, he tried to see the Bishop. He pleaded with his servants, the members of his household, to go and tell him. Then, after a long time, his personal helpers came to call him, when the Lord Bishop ordered that he should enter. When he entered, he knelt in front of the Bishop, he prostrated himself and told of the precious voice, the precious words of the Queen of Heaven, what her message was, and he told of all he had admired, seen, and heard.
Having listened to the whole story and to his message as well, which he did not hold to be entirely true, the Bishop responded: “My son, another time you will come and with more calm, I will listen from the beginning; I will see and consider the reason for which you have come, your will and desire.”
Juan Diego went out; he was sad because his mission was not realized immediately.
Toward the end of the day, he returned straight to the top of the hill where he had seen the Queen of Heaven earlier. Our Lady, clothed in light, was waiting for him. When he saw her, he fell at once to his knees, and bowing low before her, said: “My Little Patroness, my Lady, Queen, my Smallest Daughter, I went where you sent me in order to fulfill your amiable voice, your amiable word. Although it was difficult for me to enter the place where the Governing Priest lives, I saw him and before him, I exposed your voice, your word, as you requested. He received me kindly and listened perfectly, but from what he answered me, it seemed as if he did not understand and was not sure. He said to me: you will come another time. I will calmly listen to you from the beginning, and I will see why you came, your desire, your will.
“I believe, according to the way he answered me, he thinks the house you want them to build here for you may be my invention, or maybe it does not come from your lips. I beg you very much, my Lady, Queen, my Smallest Daughter, entrust one of the noblemen, someone who is esteemed, who is known, respected, honored, to direct, to carry out your amiable wish, your amiable word, so that they will believe him. Because truly I am a man of the fields, I myself need to be led; I am like a beast of burden, like a tail, like a wing, to be loaded with a burden. It is not up to me to decide the place, where I go or where I stop. Please forgive me, I will afflict your countenance, your heart with sorrow; I will fall in your anger, in your displeasure. Lady, my owner, I belong to you.”
The Perfect Virgin, worthy of honor and veneration, answered him: “Listen, the smallest of my sons, be assured that those who serve me, my messengers, entrusted to carry my voice, my word, to accomplish my will, are not few in number. But it is very necessary that you personally go, request that my wish, my will, be realized, be carried out, through your intercession. I beg you earnestly, youngest son of mine, and solemnly do command you, that once again tomorrow you go to see the bishop. From my [heart], let him know, let him hear my wish, my will, so that he will make, he will build the temple that I ask. So, once again, tell him that it is I, personally, the ever virgin, holy Mary, the Mother of God, who is sending you.”
Juan Diego, in turn, answered her, saying: “My Lady, Queen, my Smallest Daughter, don’t let me cause any pain in your face or in your heart. With great pleasure I will go to carry your voice, your word. Nothing will stop me, nor will I find the road too hard. I shall go to carry out your will, but maybe I shall not be heard, and if I am heard, maybe I shall not be believed. Tomorrow evening, when the sun sets, I shall return to your word, your voice, with what the Governing Priest will have answered me. I now respectfully say farewell to you, Smallest of my Daughters, Young One, my Lady, my Little Child: rest a little while.”
Then he also went to his own house to rest.
On the next day, Sunday, when it was still night, when it was still dark, he left his house. He went straight to Tlatelolco to learn the ways of God and to be counted on the list, to see the Lord Bishop only afterwards. At about ten o’clock, he was ready: he had heard Mass and been counted on the list, and the people dispersed. Juan Diego then went to the palace of the Lord Bishop.
As soon as he arrived, he did everything he could to see the Bishop; only after a lot of effort did he see him again. He knelt at the Bishop’s feet, he cried, he became sad as he spoke, as he explained the word, the mission, the voice of the Queen of Heaven.
He hoped that his mission would be believed, the will of the Perfect Virgin to be done, to build her little sacred house where she said, where she wanted it. The Governing Bishop asked him very many things: he questioned him to discover where he had seen her, what she looked like. He told the Lord Bishop absolutely everything.
Although he declared absolutely everything, and in each thing, the Bishop saw, admired with all clarity that she was the Perfect Virgin, the Kind, Wonderful Mother of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing, however, came of it. The Bishop said that it could not be by Juan Diego’s word alone that his petition would be done, would be realized; some other sign was very necessary before it could be believed that he had been sent by the Queen of Heaven in person.
As soon as Juan Diego heard this, he said to the Bishop: “Lord Governor, consider what sign you would like, because I shall now go to ask it of the Queen of Heaven who sent me.”
The Bishop, having seen that Juan Diego confirmed everything, that he never hesitated, nor showed any doubt, dismissed him. As soon as he had left, the Bishop sent some of the members of his household in whom he had complete confidence to follow him, to observe where he went, whom he saw, with whom he spoke.
And thus it was done. Juan Diego went out; he just followed the road. Those who followed him lost sight of him at the end of the causeway near the Tepeyac at the wooden bridge. Although they looked everywhere, they could not find him. So they went back, not only because they were greatly upset with that, but also because they could not fulfill their attempt and that made them angry. So they went to relate to the Lord Bishop, to put into his head that he should not believe him, that he was telling nothing but lies, that he had invented what he had told the Bishop, or that he had only dreamed or imagined what he said and what he asked. And then they determined that if once again he were to return, they would lay hands on him and punish him severely so that he would not again tell lies and cause trouble.
In the meantime, Juan Diego was with the Blessed Virgin, telling her the answer that he brought from the Bishop. When she had heard it, the Lady said: “Well done, my little son; you will return here tomorrow so that you may take the bishop the sign that he has asked for. With that, he will believe you, and he will not doubt this any longer nor distrust you. Know, little son, that I will repay you for the trouble, the labor, and the weariness that I have caused you. There now, go. For tomorrow, I will wait for you here.”
The next day, Monday, the day when Juan Diego should have taken a sign to be believed, he did not return. When he returned to his house, his sick uncle, Juan Bernardino, was now very bad. Although Juan Diego went for the doctor and did what he could, it was too late—his uncle was very ill.
When night came, his uncle begged him, even though it was not yet dawn and still dark, to go forth to Tlatelolco, to fetch a priest who would hear his confession, who would prepare him. He was sure that this was the time, this was the place to die, because he would never get up again, he would not be cured.
So on Tuesday, when it was still very much night, there from his house came Juan Diego to call a priest from Tlatelolco. When he had reached the foot of the little hill, where the Sierra ends, where the path emerges on the side where the sun sets, where he had come before, he said to himself: “If I follow the path straight ahead, the Lady might see me and surely she will detain me as she has done before, that I may take the sign to the ecclesiastical Governor as she commanded me. First let her allow us to deal with our troubles; first let me quickly call the religious priest that my uncle is waiting for so anxiously.”
He then made his way around the hill, climbed towards the middle, and when there, he crossed to the eastern side, to come out rather quietly, to go to Mexico, so that the Queen of Heaven would not stop him. He thought that the roundabout road he took would keep her from seeing him, she for whom every place is perfectly seen.
He saw her as she came down from the top of the hill, from where she had been watching him, from where she saw him before. She came to meet him on the side of the hill. She came to stand in his way and said: “What is it, smallest of my sons? Where are you going, where are you heading?” And he maybe was grieved a little, perhaps he felt ashamed, or maybe he was startled or became frightened.
In her presence, he prostrated himself, greeted her, and said: “My Little Girl, my Smallest Daughter, my Child, I hope you are happy, how are you this morning? Is your dear little body well, my Lady, my Child? With pain, I will distress your face, your heart. I tell you, my Little Girl, that one of your servants, my uncle, is gravely ill. A terrible illness has him in its grip, and surely he will die of it soon. Now I must go rapidly to your little house in Mexico to call one of the loved ones of our Lord, one of our priests, to hear his confession and prepare him. In reality, we were born for that, we who have come to await the labor of our death. However, when I have done this, I shall return here and carry your voice, your word, my Lady, my Young One. I beg of you to forgive me, still to have a little more patience with me, because I am not deceiving you, my Youngest Daughter, my Child. Tomorrow, without fail, I will come in haste.”
When she had heard his excuses, the Perfect and Pious Virgin said to Juan Diego: “Listen and keep in your heart, my youngest son, that there is nothing for you to fear, nothing to afflict you. Let neither your face nor your heart be worried. Do not fear this nor any other illness, nor anything pounding or afflicting. Am I not here, I who am your mother? Are you not in my shadow, under my protection? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in the fold of my mantle, in my crossed arms? Is there anything else you need? Don’t let anything afflict you, perturb you. Let not the sickness of your uncle cause pain. He will not die of it now. Be assured that he is well.”
At that very moment, his uncle recovered, as it was later known. When Juan Diego heard these loving words, the loving voice of the Queen of Heaven, he was filled with consolation and his heart was set at rest. He begged her to send him at once to the Governing Bishop, to bring something as a sign, a proof, so that he would believe.
Then the Queen of Heaven told him to climb to the top of the little hill where he had seen her before. She said: “Climb, smallest of my sons, to the top of the little hill where you saw me and where I gave you my commands. There, you will see many flowers; cut them, pick them, gather them together, then come back here, bring them here to my presence.”
So Juan Diego climbed the little hill. When he reached the top, he was filled with wonder at the sight of so many flowers in full bloom, flowers of the greatest variety, beautiful and splendid, though their proper time to bloom had not yet come. For truly at that season, the frost was very keen. From the flowers came the sweetest of perfumes. They were like precious pearls steeped in the dew of the night. He then began to cut them, gathering all together, placing them in the fold of his tilma (apron). Certainly, the summit of the little hill was no place to find any flowers—nothing could flourish there, only weeds, wild bushes, thorns, nopales, and mesquites. And, if by chance, a few blades of grass were to sprout, it was December, when frost kills everything, destroys everything.
When he came down, he brought the different flowers he had cut to the Heavenly Child. When she saw them, she took them in her venerable hands and put them again in the fold of his ayate (apron) and said: “My youngest little son, these various flowers are the proof, the sign that you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name to see in them my wish, and because of them, he can fulfill my wish, my will. Juan, you who are my messenger, in you is placed absolutely all my confidence. I order you most severely that only in the presence of the bishop, when you are alone with him, are you to open your ayate and show him what you bring. You will tell him everything exactly. You will tell him that I ordered you to climb to the top of the little hill to cut flowers. Tell him everything you saw and admired. Thus, you will be able to convince the Governing Priest that he should do everything in his power to make, to build my temple, which I have asked for.”
As soon as the Celestial Queen had given her command, he set out on the road, straight to Mexico City. He came happily. So he went, his heart at peace because everything would work out well, he would fulfill it perfectly. He was very careful of what he carried in the fold of his apron, for fear of dropping something. He walked along, enjoying the fragrance of the varied precious flowers.
When he reached the Bishop’s palace, the porter and other servants of the Governing Priest came out to meet him. He begged them to tell the Bishop that he wished to see him, but none of them would do so. They pretended they did not understand him or that it was still too dark. Or perhaps because they knew him, that he would just bother them, annoy them. Their comrades had already told them about him, those who had lost sight of him when they had tried to follow him. For a very long time, he waited for an answer.
He stood there for a long time, head down, doing nothing, just in case he would be called. When they saw that he looked like he was carrying something in the fold of his tilma, they approached him to see what he had and stop wondering. When Juan Diego realized that there was no way to hide from them what he was carrying, and therefore that they would molest him and push him and maybe even beat him, he allowed them a glimpse of his flowers. When they saw such fine and varied flowers and realized that it was not the time for them to bloom, they admired them very much: how fresh they were, how wide open, how fragrant and lovely they were. They wanted to grab some and take them out.
Three time they dared to try to take them, but there was no way they could do so. When they made their attempts, the flowers no longer seemed real; they were as if painted, embroidered, or sewn on the tilma. They went at once to tell the Governing Bishop of what they had seen. They told him how much the little Indian who had come before wanted to see him, and that he had been waiting for a long time for permission to see him.
The Governing Bishop, as soon as he heard this, realized that this was the proof which was to convince him to put into effect the work that the little man had asked to have done. He gave orders that Juan Diego be brought into his presence immediately. Having entered, Juan Diego prostrated himself in his presence, as he had done before. Once again, he told him what he had seen, what he had admired, and his message.
He said: “My Lord, Governor, I did, I carried out, what you commanded me. I went to tell the Lady, my Mistress, the Heavenly Child, Maiden, Holy Mary, the Beloved Mother of God, that you asked for proof in order to believe me, so that you would make her sacred little house, where she asked you to build it. I also told her that I had given you my word to bring you some sign, some proof of her will, as you told me to do. She listened well to your voice, your word, and received with pleasure your petition for the sign, the proof, so that her beloved will be done and verified.
“Now, while it was still night, she ordered me to come to see you again. I asked her for the proof so that I would be believed, according to the promise she had made to me, and she fulfilled it immediately. She sent me to the top of the little hill where I had already seen her, to cut there various roses of Castile, and when I cut them, I took them down to her, and she took them in her holy hands. Once again, she put them in the fold of my ayate (apron), so that I would bring them to you, so that I would give them to you personally.
“Although I knew well that the top of the hill is not a place where flowers will grow, since only weeds, wild scrub, thorny bushes, cacti, and mesquites grow there, not even for that reason did I doubt or hesitate. When I arrived at the top of the little hill, I thought I was already in paradise. There they were, already all perfect: the varied precious flowers, the finest ones, full of dew, resplendent; I went and cut them. She told me to give them to you from her and that by so doing, I would provide proof. You would see in it the sign you asked for so that her beloved will would be fulfilled. To show that my word, my message is true, here they are. Do me the favor of receiving them.”
Then Juan Diego unfolded his white tilma, in which fold she had put the flowers, so that all the varied precious flowers fell to the floor. Then there appeared the sign, before their very eyes, the Beloved Image of the Perfect Virgin, Holy Mary, Mother of God, in the form and figure that can be seen now, where it is still preserved in her beloved little house, in her sacred little house in Tepeyac, which is called Guadalupe.
As soon as the Governing Bishop and all who were there saw her, they fell to their knees, admiring her very much. They stood up to see her, becoming sad and grieving, their hearts and thoughts in suspense. The Governing Bishop was in tears. Sadly, he begged her forgiveness for not having by then fulfilled her will, her venerable voice, her venerable word. When he stood up, he untied the tilma of Juan Diego where it was knotted at his neck, and on which she appeared, on which the Celestial Queen was converted into a sign. He then took the tilma and placed it in his oratory. Juan Diego spent the day in the house of the Bishop, who would not let him go.
The next day, the Bishop said: “Come, bring me to where the Queen of Heaven wants us to build her temple.” Immediately, some people came forward, eager to offer their services to build the little house, the little temple.
As soon as Juan Diego had showed where the Lady of Heaven had ordered her sacred little house to be built, he asked for permission to be excused. He wanted to go to his house to see his uncle Juan Bernardino, who had been so ill when he had left him to get a priest in Tlatelolco to hear his confession and prepare him before he died—of whom the Queen of Heaven had said he was already cured. But they did not let him go alone; they accompanied him to his house.
When they arrived, they saw his uncle already cured, totally free of pain. And he, on his part, admired very much the way his nephew was accompanied and honored. He asked his nephew what was happening, why were they honoring him so much. Juan explained that when he left to get the priest for his confession and preparation, the Lady of Heaven appeared to him in the Tepeyac, and she sent him to Mexico to see the Governing Bishop, so that he would build a house for her in the Tepeyac, and that the Lady had told him not to be afflicted, that his uncle was happy; with that, he had been greatly consoled. His uncle replied that this was true; in that precise moment, he had been healed. He had seen her in exactly the same form as she had appeared to his nephew, and she told him also to go to Mexico to see the Bishop, and that when he saw him, he would reveal absolutely everything, and tell all that he had seen, including the wonderful way in which she had healed him, and that her Beloved Image would be called, would be named the Perfect Virgin, Holy Mary of Guadalupe.
Then they brought Juan Bernardino to the presence of the Governing Bishop so that he might speak to him, to give his testimony. Together with his nephew, Juan Diego, the Bishop lodged them in his house for some days. Meanwhile, the little sacred house of the Queen Child was build in the Tepeyac, where she had been seen by Juan Diego. The Lord Bishop removed the Image of the Beloved Heavenly Child to the main church. He took her Beloved Image out of his palace, out of his oratory, so that it might be seen and admired by everyone.
Absolutely all from that city, without exception, were shaken when they came to see, to admire the precious Image. They came to recognize its divine character; they came to offer their prayers. They greatly admired that miraculous way in which she appeared, since absolutely no man of earth had painted her Beloved Image.
(link to an alternate translation by Dr. David K. Jordan: http://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/nahuatl/nican/NicanMopohua.html)